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Students meet entertainment industry professionals

Published on November 07, 2022

Students meet entertainment industry professionals

Eastern students practiced their networking skills while displaying their employability at Entertainment Industry Day on Nov. 4. A variety of industry professionals, from film directors to theatre production crews, gathered in the Fine Arts Instructional Center to meet with students and discuss the current state of entertainment. 

“I always tell my students that they need to be able to network to find opportunities in the entertainment industry,” said Theatre Professor Brian Day, the event’s organizer. “I wanted to create an event that would be educational for students in multiple ways.” 

Although networking was the focal point of the event, he attributed a lot of its success to Eastern Career Counselor, Jaclynn Lewis with the Office of Career Success. “Social networking is very important for the students,” said Lewis. “We wanted to create a career conversation between employers and students where students wouldn’t have to leave campus to make professional connections.” 

Day booked the location and contacted more than a dozen professionals in the entertainment industry to help develop students’ business relations and refine their interviewing techniques. Students were able to learn about some of the companies in the region that create films, produce theatre, create various forms of entertainment media, etc.,” said Day. “On the other hand, the companies were able to learn about our students and our programs at Eastern. The event also allowed students to explore different types of career possibilities in the entertainment industry.” 

Communication major Adam Benway `23 and theatre major Christopher Gregor `24 attended in hopes of learning more about the music industry but felt that meeting future employers in the field was the most valuable part of the event. “I came here with the intention of just striking up conversation,” said Benway `23. “Making connections through conversation is what this world — and this industry — is all about.”  

“Students had the ability to interact with companies or employers that may be of a lot of interest to them,” added Gregor. “I went to every booth to show that I’m approachable and passionate. It’s a great way to ingrain your name and face in employers’ minds so we can hopefully reconnect in the future.” 

In terms of students’ employability, many of the industry professionals praised the students for attempting to gain knowledge and experience in occupational fields that are driven by passion and creativity. “We’re happy to be networking because we are always looking for promising young talent to come and join the workforce,” said Mike Lenaghan, director of production at Hartford’s TheaterWorks, a nonprofit professional theatre. “Thankfully, we have already met a lot of really great students, so I’m eager to hear back from them.” 

Bruce Benhaim, producer and chief operating officer of BYB Pictures, a Rhode Island video production company, said that initiating interactions between students and local businesses is an indispensable asset that not only expands students’ business connections but gives them the insights they need to start pursuing their career goals.  

“There was a girl who worked in costume and set design that came by to network with one of the companies. It turned out that the business needed her services for an upcoming show, so she was hired on the spot,” said Benhaim. “Great things like that can happen at events like this.” 

Finally, many of the experts and professionals noted that the industry is in a very complex state due to our society’s infatuation with technology, social media and content consumption in general. Sadly, this trend, coupled with individuals’ hesitancy to return to live events like concerts, movies and plays following the global pandemic, has become very concerning for longtime industry professionals.  

“We had to accommodate our guests during the three-year pandemic by presenting plays in non-traditional or unorthodox formats, such as virtual showings,” said Tori Mooney, front-of-house manager at Playhouse on Park, a performing arts theatre in West Hartford, “Nobody wants that anymore, but it is very hard to get people back to live shows. We say that there is a magnet in the couch and people can’t remove it to leave their homes. There are some people coming back, but it’s just not enough.Day said that Eastern plans to hold two similar events over the course of the next year. His goal is to establish a larger presence of industry professionals for next fall’s conference, but he still plans on holding a smaller-scale event during the spring semester.  

“The companies all expressed great gratitude for being invited and being able to participate,” said Day. “They all told me that they enjoyed meeting the students and networking with them. There were 76 students who signed up for the event, but I'm sure more were in attendance. The students said they really enjoyed the experience and found it educational and motivating. In fact, some students even found internship opportunities through these companies.” 

Written by Jack Jones